Heel-Up & Heel-Down Double Bass Combos

Last month we worked on the one-footed roll and our goal was to develop speed and accuracy with each foot, separately. This month, we're going to put both feet together using an exercise that has helped me develop accuracy and control at any speed, without having to resort to inferior techniques like the “shiver.”

In case you’re wondering, the shiver is a natural reflex action that some drummers use to squeeze out top speeds, rather than practicing to develop legitimate technique. Not everyone has the ability to shiver and there are many problems with it, like the inability to apply it consistently at all speeds. Although the technique I describe below requires practice, you’ll find that it will give you much greater and more consistent control of your double bass than any pseudo-technique like the shiver.

Check out the written four-bar exercise before watching the video. When I play the eighth-note triplets, I use heel-down technique. When I play the sixteenth-notes, I shift to heel-up. It’s important to practice the four-bar exercise very slowly until you develop the ability to switch between the two foot techniques cleanly and effortlessly. This will help you work up to faster speeds.

Video Lesson
Note that I play the “slow” example at a speed of 80 bpm on the metronome while I play the “fast” example at 170 bpm. In addition to practicing the exercise as written, you should also practice repeating only the last measure of sixteenth-notes. See how long you can keep it up before you start to lose the tempo. Once you can play the sixteenth-note triplets repeatedly for an entire minute at a speed of 170 bpm, you will have broken the one thousand mark with your feet! (You’ll be playing at 1,020 bpm, to be exact!)

Practice Key
1. Use heel-down on eighth-notes and heel-up on sixteenth-notes.
2. Also practice with a left-foot lead, as shown above.
3. Practice using at least two volume levels: soft and loud.

Practice Is The Key
There are very few drummers capable of playing over one thousand beats per minute with their feet and fewer still who can play at those speeds with both their hands and feet. Most drummers max out at around 800 bpm with foot technique. I find the plus-1,000 range relatively easy to play because I apply Tension Free techniques. Using my methods, you will be able to do the same.

For more information on Tension Free hand and foot techniques, please visit TensionFreeDrumming.com.

Stay loose!